Meet Bruce, Limerickâ€™s first resident wallaby who has found a new home for himself in Curragh Chase.
But thereâ€™s no need for concern. Bruce has not taken to the bush of the countyâ€™s premier forest park. Rather he is the new addition to the Stonehall Visitor Farm and can now claim to be Limerickâ€™s first zoo.
Bruce is a Parma wallaby, says Sinean Shanahan whose family set up the visitor farm in 2000 and was awarded a zoo licence last year.
â€œBecause we have rare breeds and wild animals, we had to get a zoo licence,â€ Ms Shanahan explained. â€œAccording to the new regulations, if you have any wild animal on show for more than seven days, you must have a zoo licence. It is not easy to get. We had a big inspection but I think we are one of the first visitor farms turned zoo in the country. We are running the same protocol now as Dublin Zoo or Fota.â€
It was a love of animals which convinced the Shanahan family to get involved, first as a visitor farm and now as a zoo, Sinead continued. â€œIt is a labour of love.â€ But it is also, she added, a very seasonal business, and one very dependant of school tours and summer visitors.
For the family however, the care of the animals is a 365 days-a-year matter. And their knowledge of animals and animal-care has continued to grow over the years.
â€œWhen you have an interest in and a love for an animal, you do find out about it, you have to do research. You have to know about them and their needs,â€ Sinead explained.
The Stonehall zoo is now home not just to Bruce but to three of the worldâ€™s biggest birds, emus, ostriches and rheas. â€œWe had two new emus born in early February which is very unusual,â€ Sinead explained. A second pair were born just before Easter.
Red deer, alpacas, parrots, birds of prey can also be found there, along with more common animals such as sheep. But in Stonehall even the sheep have a rarity value. They are soey sheep, Sinead explains, and they shed their own wool. And while they have lots of multi-coloured peacocks, they have also introduced snowhite peacocks.
â€œThe childrenâ€™s favourite is Andy the spitting llama,â€ Sinead adds.
Later this year, the Shanahans hope to find a partner for Bruce â€“ and to have a family of joeys skipping about the place next year.
The easiest way to get to the new zoo is to go in the main entrance to Curragh Chase Forest Park at Kilcornan on the N69, and then turn left at the sign just before the barrier gates.
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